The details of months-long marathon talks between the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and senior members of the Taliban are still not disclosed despite US President Donald Trump on Saturday night called off all sort of further negotiations with the hardline group which has been waging war against the Afghan government and foreign forces almost for nineteen years.
On September 2, Mr. Khalilzad, after wrapping up the talks in Doha, said the United States and the Taliban had reached an agreement in principle but clarified that the draft framework agreement is not final until US President agrees on it.
Since his appointment to the post last September, Mr. Khalilzad held nine round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, however, the Afghan government as a legitimate government who had the supported of the international community remained absent from these talks. The Afghan political leadership even were not given a copy of the draft framework agreement between the two sides.
But, in a rare move on Saturday night, Mr. Trump said that he had called off a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani over a deadly suicide bombing by the Taliban on Thursday that left at one American soldier and 12 other people dead and scores more wounded.
“....an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they....,” Trump tweeted as eyes were focused on Qatar over a possible signing of the agreement between the US and the Taliban.
‘Taliban Building The False Leverage’
During the nine months of talks, Trump remained under pressure from the Afghan government, politicians and some members of his own administration who mistrust the Taliban and thought it was too early to withdraw US forces from the country.
Mr. Trump also lashed out at the Taliban by saying that the group was trying to build leverage on the talks by rejecting the ceasefire and killing the innocent people.
“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Mr. Trump tweeted, adding that the Taliban sought to “build false leverage”.
Mr. Khalilzad at the time said that based on the draft agreement, the US will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days if conditions in the agreement are addressed by the Taliban.
“Yes, we have reached an agreement in principle,” Mr. Khalilzad told TOLOnews’ Lotfullah Najafizada just hours after he briefed Afghan leaders on his on the US-Taliban deal on September 2. “Of course, it is not final until the US president [Donald Trump] agrees on it. So, at the moment, we are at that stage.”
Mr. Khalilzad held the first round of talks with the Taliban on the 12 October 2018. Since then, the two sides conducted at least nine round of talks in Doha. Later on, the two sides held their third round of talks in Abdu Dhabi.
It is said that the fifth round of the talks was the most complicated during which the Taliban’s senior leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sat in front of Khalilzad and this round of talks continued for sixteen days.
An overview of US-Taliban talks
• October 12, 2018: First round of talks between the US and the Taliban were held in Doha
• November 16, 2018: The second round of talks were held in Doha.
• December 17, 2018: The third of talks were held in Abu Dhabi.
• January 19, 2019: The fourth round of talks were held in Doha
• February 25, 2019: The fifth round of talks were held in Doha in the presence of Abdul Ghani Baradar
• April 29, 2019: The sixth round of talks were in Doha
• June 29, 2019: The seventh round of talks were held in Doha
• August 3, 2019: The eighth round of talks were held in Doha
• August 22, 2019: The ninth round of talks were held in Doha where the two sides announced that they “agreed in principle” on a peace deal.
Although details of these talks were never disclosed, the Taliban during this period always insisted on the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
On May 9, the sixth round of US-Taliban talks ended in the Qatari capital, Doha. Negotiators from the two sides had said the talks focused on four key issues: US forces withdrawal, counterterrorism assurances, a ceasefire, and intra-Afghan negotiations.
“We do not have any disagreements with the Americans. We are talking about a draft agreement and it has not been finalized yet,” said Taliban’s chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai during an interview in Doha.
“We are not ready to take part in the elections under the invasion. We want the invasion to be ended so that we can establish an Islamic system over there where all Afghans can take part in it,” said Suhail Shaheen during an interview in Doha few months ago.
But during this period, the Afghan government remained out of the talks and no details were given to the Afghan political leadership that what topics the US and the Taliban had agreed upon.
The Afghan conflict has cost more than 2,300 American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars. As the war approaches its 18th year, 14,000 US troops are still in Afghanistan, and senior intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the country remains fragile and could once again become a terrorist haven.